Greenhill Shares Jumped: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of boutique investment bank Greenhill (NYS: GHL) were ringing up big gains today, rising as much as 15% in intraday trading after the company reported fourth-quarter results.

So what: The jubilee over Greenhill's quarterly results came amid some definite challenges. On the business side, the unraveling of the massive AT&T-T-Mobile deal smarted, as the bank would have raked in a handsome sum for its advisory role had the deal been consummated. On a more human note, the bank continues to reel from the death of two senior bankers in a plane crash in December.

For the fourth quarter, though, revenue climbed to $94.5 million, up 53% from the fourth quarter of 2010. The jump was driven by strong advisory revenue of $85.5 million, up from $56.7 million in 2010. Earnings per share, meanwhile -- after adjusting for accelerated stock and compensation expenses relating to the partners that passed away -- were $0.67, far ahead of the $0.06 notched in 2010. Analysts were expecting $0.61 in per-share earnings.

Now what: The results for Greenhill impressed some of its competitors -- Goldman Sachs upgraded the company's shares while JMP Securities and Sandler O'Neill both boosted their expectations for the company.

To a significant extent, Greenhill -- like the investment banking arm of Goldman Sachs or any of the other big, integrated banks -- depends on an accommodative deal-making environment to rack up profits. However, regardless of the state of the economy, it's good news for investors if the bank shows it can execute well in good times, bad times, and those in between.

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